Irish archbishop offers beds for homeless after man dies in doorway

REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The Archbishop of Dublin today offered to house some of the city's homeless people in church property, after a homeless man was found dead yesterday metres away from Lenister House, one of the parliament buildings.

The body of 42-year-old Jonathan Corrie was found by a passer-by in a doorway on Monday morning, provoking cricticism of the increasing problem of homelessnes in the Irish capital.

More than 160 people sleep rough in Dublin each night, according to official figures, almost three times more than when Ireland's financial crisis began five years ago.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the head of the Catholic Church in Dublin, said one of his diocesan buildings could be made suitable before Christmas to provide shelter for between 30 and 40 homeless people in the inner city.

"Archbishop Martin said he is very deeply concerned about a deeply divided Dublin where on the one hand there is rejoicing at increased spending over the Christmas period and on the other hand where the number of those homeless and hungry is actually increasing," the Dublin diocese said in a statement.

Sophie Pigot, 25, who discovered Corrie, said in an interview with the Irish Mirror: "The fact that the guy was literally a stone's throw from the front gate of our Dail [parliament] – it's got out of hand. It needs to be tackled, especially at Christmas.

"This is not the politicians, this is not the gardai [police], we are all to blame."

The Irish economy has been praised for its recovery as it is set to beat many European countries with a growth rate of about 5 percent this year. However, there has also been criticism of the unevenness of the recovery, particularly as years of relentless austerity have meant a reduction in services.

Sister Stanislaus Kennedy of homeless charity Focus Ireland, told national broadcaster RTE that it was not just a case of providing emergency accomodation, but more homes were needed.

"I think what it says to us that this man like so many others who are sleeping out are a sign of the failure of the State... of the failure of the State in the past and in the present to offer them the support they needed to live independently," she said.

With an acute shortage of housing supply in urban areas, the Irish government laid out plans last week to build and refurbish 35,000 social housing units over the next five years. Opposition parties have said they should have reacted sooner.

Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly has responded by convening a special forum on homelessness this week, bringing together the heads of Dublin's local authorities and voluntary bodies to see what collective action can be taken.

"We are doing something about this and we need to continue to do an awful lot more, fellow minister Jan O'Sullivan told RTE.

(Additional reporting from Reuters)